UPDATED 4:10 PM PT — Thursday, May 21, 2020
As states continue taking steps towards reopening, local governments are looking at ways to avoid a potential second surge in new coronavirus cases.
One of those possible solutions is contact tracing. The process can be used in two ways to trace the spread of this virus.
The state can hire a group of tracers or health investigators, who will call people that were confirmed to have COVID-19. They will question these individuals to figure out all the places they have been and then notify others who may have been exposed.
However, officials claimed this process can be long and troublesome.
“I get people that lie all the time,” stated health investigator Maria Dicaro. “I try to get as much information from the beginning, but it’s just not always the case.”
States can also use contact tracing technology on a phone app, which will track a person’s movements and notify them if they came into contact with an infected or COVID positive person.
“If both of us were on a subway for ten minutes, which is the CDC guidelines for minimum exposure time, I went back home and submitted a report that said that I was positively diagnosed – and this would, of course, be validated by a health care authority – you would then get an automatic notification on your phone saying you might have been exposed,” explained doctoral student Justin Chan. “You’d potentially want to quarantine or self-isolate to prevent further spread of the disease.”
At least 22 states have launched some form of contact tracing phone app, in hopes of curbing the spread in their areas.
“As we attempt to transition to open back up our economy, we’re simultaneously moving to this second initiative of testing, contact tracing and isolation of people who, in fact, are infected,” said Washington Governor Jay Inslee. “We think of this as a smart weapon against this virus.”
However, states have seen glitches and other tech issues with these apps, making the method less effective.
Apple and Google recently released a new update for the iPhones’ IOS system, which included contact tracing technology. America’s more than 100 million iPhone users will now have access to the tech, which Apple is hoping will help combat the pandemic.
Other countries like Australia and the U.K. are also utilizing such technology and remain optimistic.
According to researchers, it will take time to tell whether these applications are effective in fighting the spread of the coronavirus. In the meantime, maintaining personal hygiene and social distancing is a good way to flatten the curve.